Time for National Bodies to Decide

It’s now just about two weeks since the Ballot Resolution Meeting on OOXML in Geneva. The blogging has been non stop and there are times (actually all the time) when you wonder whether they were at the same meeting. Certainly an extraordinary amount of spin been placed by the various proponents, and the sparcity of fact and downright untruth is becoming distinctly unhelpful.

The OFE Conference of course focussed on the non technical issues, and it is this area where we are seeing a consistent groundswell of opinion being raised. This includes specifics such as IPR, and I was interested to read the analysis by the Software Freedom Law Centre which destroys the claims made by MS for the Open Specification Promise (http://www.softwarefreedom.org/resources/2008/osp-gpl.html ). But this is only one of the issues which still haven’t been answered fully. For the full list, have a look at the ODF alliance site at  http://www.odfalliance.org/resources/OOXML-post-BRM-overview.pdf .

In the real world any one of these would be a blocker to progress, but with the FUD and counterclaims being made it seems that some NBs may not even be considering these points.

In fact the real issue now being aired is over the whole process being enacted by ISO. To be fair the real villain in my eyes is ECMA, who implemented the ‘fast track’ process totally inappropriately. I hear that this is now being raised by many NBs and certainly the BRM delegates I spoke to were scathing about the wholly farcical process they were being asked to endure. So why aren’t more making their feelings heard?

Some are. In The Netherlands, the national Standards Body NEN, we hear, has sent a clear advice to the SC34 committee to vote “NO” on procedural grounds since they judge that the  fast track procedure is not suitable for processing a standard like this. However, apparently the Dutch SC34 committee couldn´t reach consensus on changing the vote into a “NO”. Unsurprising since certain committee members have a particular stake in the outcome. In normal situations the NEN organisation would take its responsibility and decide on a vote itself, but it seems that they might not be willing to do so. The result is that a P-member like The NL will not be in a position to cast a vote, even though the independent standards body NEN has indicated it doesn’t approve the procedures followed.

The whole ISO process relies on the independence, integrity and transparency of National Bodies. ISO appears unready to get involved but individually those NBs must show they have learnt the lessons from the collective comments made, not just by themselves but other NBs (the purpose of the BRM was to consult), and to apply absolute rigour to their implementation of the proces, without influence from outside parties. We hear the EC are already undertaking an investigation into the vote last year, you would have thought the last thing NBs want is a repeat after this phase.